Since its popular introduction among the hippies of the 1960s, the macrobiotic lifestyle has gained many followers in the West. Macrobiotic means “long life.” Those who follow a strict macrobiotic diet and lifestyle say they have lives filled with better health and are often vocal proponents.
What Is a Macrobiotic Diet?
Macrobiotics is a dietary and lifestyle regimen that includes many principles of its Buddhist roots. Those precepts include observing and balancing the yin and yang of basic human activities such as selecting, preparing and eating foods, exercising and sleeping.
There isn’t any specific diet that is “the” macrobiotic diet and there are varying degrees of strictness. Here are the general guidelines of most macrobiotic diets.
- 40 percent of the diet should consist of organically grown whole grains.
- 20 to 30 percent of the diet should be locally grown vegetables.
- 5 to 10 percent of the daily diet should include beans and bean products and other proteins such as fish, soy, nuts, seeds and sea vegetables.
Restrictions Contained in the Macrobiotic Diet
There are many restriction in the macrobiotic lifestyle. The below are some of the dietary and food preparation limitations observed in a pure macrobiotic diet.
- Avoid excess fluid intake. Only drink when thirsty.
- No proteins from meats, eggs or cheeses
- The diet allows neither sugar nor most spices.
- No strong alcoholic beverages
- Neither sodas nor coffee are allowed.
- Most fruit is forbidden on the diet.
- Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, spinach, beets and avocados are considered extremely yin and should either not be eaten at all or only seldom.
- The diet restricts the additions of chemical additives, foods that are chemically preserved or any overly processed foods.
- For strict observers, no cooking should be done with electricity or microwaves.
As with many Eastern diets, the macrobiotic diet usually has more sodium than most dietitians recommend. Because the diet restricts fruit, a person may lack adequate phytonutrients.
Without animal proteins, followers are susceptible to vitamin B-12 deficiencies. Persons using a macrobiotic diet should consider taking a potent daily multivitamin to avoid deficiencies. Children are particularly susceptible to dietary deficiencies and should be monitored closely.
7 Health Benefits Claimed for the Macrobiotic Diet
Many persons have touted various health benefits of the macrobiotic diet, some reasonable and others outlandish. Here are 7 claims that are generally agreed upon as true by most dietitians and other experts.
1. Macrobiotics may help women with hormone problems. Because this diet is low in saturated fat while remaining high in phytoestrogens, many believe that it helps balance estrogen and progesterone.
2. The macrobiotic diet promotes healthier and easier weight loss. This way of eating, along with the activity recommended, helps promote natural, gradual and healthy weight loss.
3. Digestive health is improved. By virtue of the high fiber in nearly every food recommended by the macrobiotic diet, intestinal motility is either greatly improved or maintained at a high level.
4. The macrobiotic diet may have cardiovascular benefits. The restriction of saturated fats, the promotion of high fiber foods and recommended increased activity all work together to lower cholesterol levels.
5. A macrobiotic diet makes people feel more full longer. This diet will probably make its users feel fuller and less likely to snack after meals. A serving of beans and vegetables beats a bag of chips every time for making a person feel full longer.
6. The macrobiotic diet increases energy levels. The complex carbohydrates enter the digestive system and bloodstream more slowly. Energy remains consistent over a longer period of time.
7. A macrobiotic diet can lower insulin levels. With slower digestion and absorption of food, many of the spikes in insulin levels are avoided.
There are obvious benefits to eating a diet high in raw and home-cooked foods full of complex carbohydrates. Whether a person follows a strict regimen or not, there are certainly dietary benefits to be gained by adopting some of the healthy precepts of the macrobiotic diet.